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THE STEAM MAN OF THE PRAIRIES (1868): ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION

Steam Man of the PrairiesTHE STEAM MAN OF THE PRAIRIES (1868) – Written by Edward Sylvester Ellis. Before the Frank Reade stories came this work that is often hailed as the first Dime Novel with a science fiction theme.

Ellis seems to have been inspired by the REAL and well-known Newark Steam Man built by Zadoc P Dederick in January of 1868. That Steam Man was built strictly to pull carts and wagonloads up and down the street. Its human appearance was just a novelty.

Back to Ellis’ novel: In Saint Louis lives Johnny Brainerd, a 15 year old dwarf with a hunchback, who has a brilliant mind in his misshapen body. After a long line of somewhat modest inventions Johnny constructs a human-shaped Steam Man that stands 9 feet tall. It has long legs with spiked feet, has the boilers in its chest, the firepot in its stomach and lets excess steam vent from its hat. (Dederick’s Newark Steam Man also wore a top hat.) The creation’s nose serves as its whistle, like on a tea kettle.      Continue reading

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THE LAST DAYS OF PATTON (1986): MOVIE REVIEW

Last days of pattonTHE LAST DAYS OF PATTON (1986) – George C Scott SINGS! Yes, an ENTIRE SONG while camping it up like he’s in a vaudeville revue! Blood and Guts Song and dance man George S Patton belches belts out Lilly From Picadilly in a WTF moment from this otherwise reasonable made-for-tv movie which SHOULD have been titled AfterP*A*T*T*O*N.

Nearly two decades after George C Scott played Patton on the big screen he returned to the role to depict the final days of the controversial military icon. The above-referenced strange interlude in which the General sang on-stage was a mere aberration but you just knew that as weird as I am I would start out my review with it.  

The Scottsploitation angle is the best thing The Last Days of Patton has going for it, because without the novelty appeal of the charismatic actor in the lead role this telefilm would be hopelessly soap-operatic. We’re told the General had an affair with a younger woman but his stoic wife (Eva Marie Saint) tolerated it even though she did not approve. We also get lots of medical drama after Patton is paralyzed following a car accident in Germany the day before he was to leave for America.  

Last Days of Patton 2Roughly half of the movie is spent with the great George C Scott in a hospital bed, like we’re watching Whose Life Is It Anyway, Ya Pusillanimous Sons of Bitches? Scott is always watchable, and really shines here, but the other actors have no room. With such a gigantic figure – real-life Elmer Fudd voice aside – it may have been like that in reality, too. Sharing any stage with the likes of George S Patton must have been suffocating for one’s own ego.  Continue reading

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THE QUEST OF SETH FOR THE OIL OF LIFE (1962): HAPPY EASTER!

Quest of SethTHE QUEST OF SETH FOR THE OIL OF LIFE (1962) – Written by Esther Casier Quinn, this is one of the best and most concise works of comparative mythology that I have ever read. I meant to review this book way back when I started Balladeer’s Blog in 2010 but for various reasons it kept falling by the wayside. The Quest of Seth for the Oil of Life is also known as The Quest of Seth for the Oil of Mercy, The Legend of the Rood and many other titles.

Quinn draws from a multitude of sources to provide several variations of this tale and explores the ways in which the course of history shaped the revisions and embellishments involved in this legend. The Seth of the title is the son of Adam and Eve, the Oil of Life/ Oil of Mercy is often said to represent Jesus Christ, the Rood refers to the cross on which Jesus was crucified and its “legend” details the history and many forms of the tree/ wood that eventually became that cross. 

For those not familiar with this particular popular offshoot of the canonical story of Jesus Christ here’s a brief overview:
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2021 NAIA COLLEGE BASKETBALL CHAMPIONS

shawnee stateNATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – The 5 seeds – the SHAWNEE STATE BEARS – squared off against the 3rd seeded LEWIS-CLARK STATE WARRIORS (should be the Explorers) for the 2021 title in NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) basketball.

This was the 83rd national tournament in the history of the NAIA. Continue reading

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AND YET ANOTHER HILARIOUS OLD COMMERCIAL

First we looked at the Wunder Boner, then learned how “Ayds can help you lose weight” and now comes the excitement of Ball Buster!

Vintage – Ball Buster Game Commercial – YouTube

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FOOL KILLER FIFTY-THREE: JANUARY 1912

Fool Killer grayBalladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN THE 1850s, CLICK HERE

PART FIFTY-THREE – Some of the targets from the January of 1912 edition of James Larkin Pearson’s version of The Fool-Killer:

*** With Christmas just past, the Fool Killer targeted community Christmas events which distributed toys to the children of well-to-do “pillars of the community” families while shutting out poor and needy children.

*** The way too many charitable events wound up being so extravagant that very little was left over for the poor. He cited a particular North Carolina event which, when expenses were paid, only $10.00 was left for the needy.

los angeles times bombing*** J.B. McNamara and J.J. McNamara, who had pleaded guilty in December 1911 to the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building on October 1st of 1910. Clarence Darrow, the famed defense attorney, represented the men but was blamed for mishandling the situation. 

              Pearson and his Fool Killer also bashed the witch hunt that this case unleashed on organized labor since the McNamaras were tied to the Iron Workers Union strike in Los Angeles.

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NAIA FINAL FOUR RESULTS

shawnee stateFIRST SEMIFINAL – The 5 seeds – the SHAWNEE STATE BEARS – clashed with the 9th seeded UNIVERSITY OF SAINT FRANCIS (IN) COUGARS.

At Halftime the two teams were knotted up at 40-40. After the break the Bears outscored the Cougars 42-37 for an 82-77 victory and a spot in the title game. Donovan Carlisle led Shawnee State with 19 points while his teammate James Jones managed a Double-Double of 17 points and 11 assists. Continue reading

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GARRISON TALES FROM TONQUIN (1895): DECADES AHEAD OF ITS TIME

Garrison Tales From TonquinGARRISON TALES FROM TONQUIN (Tonkin): AN AMERICAN’S STORIES OF THE FRENCH FOREIGN LEGION IN VIETNAM IN THE 1890s (1895) – Written by James O’Neill. Seven years ago here at Balladeer’s Blog I examined Washington Irving’s 1809 work The Men of the Moon. I wrote about it because of the way it used an extraterrestrial invasion of the Earth as an allegory for colonialism several decades before H.G. Wells would do so in War of the Worlds. Also because it was written at a time when it was not yet fashionable to be thinking along such lines. In 1809 those sentiments were daring, not de rigueur like they would be today.

terence hill march or dieIn a similar spirit, I am now examining Garrison Tales From Tonquin, published in 1895 and written by American James O’Neill, who had served in the French Foreign Legion during the 1880s and early 1890s. Just as Washington Irving was ahead of his time with his sentiments in The Men of the Moon, James O’Neill was ahead of his time in regard to his observations on the French occupation of Vietnam during and after the Sino-French War. Readers in 1895 who were expecting Kipling would have found O’Neill to be virtually his polar opposite.

Garrison Tales From Tonquin 1890s copyI found it staggering to read 1890s accounts written by an American fighting man in Vietnam reflecting on the ugliness and ultimate futility of the military situation. So much of O’Neill’s fictionalized accounts of his real-life experiences in Vietnam read like something from an author in the late 1960s or later using such a tableau as an allegory for America’s involvement in Indochina.     

Though O’Neill’s writing makes it clear that he is expressing anti-colonialist sentiments, the stories are thankfully free of sanctimonious moralizing. The first-person narrative from his central figure in some ways anticipates hard-boiled detectives and Film Noir. The narrator has found himself in a situation filled with violence, moral ambiguity and constant danger. He no longer has any romantic notions about his own role, he’s just trying to survive.

(To underline that remark about just trying to survive let me point out that O’Neill arrived in Vietnam with just over 300 fellow Legionnaires in his unit. Only 27 of them would return.)

Sadly, James O’Neill was a victim of cosmically bad timing. When this book came out in 1895 it only sold 104 copies. If it had instead been published in 1898 or 1899, amid the Spanish-American War and the heated domestic debates about whether or not the U.S. should establish dominion over the former Spanish colony of the Philippines, it might have been a latter-day Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It may have even tipped the scales AGAINST annexing the Philippines, so close was the political outcome. There was so much public sentiment against “imperialism” that the Senate vote wound up tied, with Vice President Hobart having to cast the deciding vote in favor of acquiring the Philippines. Continue reading

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ANOTHER OLD COMMERCIAL FOR AN UNFORTUNATELY-NAMED PRODUCT

Just as the Wunder Boner from a few weeks back was a real commercial, here is another ad for an old product. This one is from 1982 and proudly tells us “Ayds will help you lose weight.”  

DIET CANDY COMMERCIAL – 1982 – YouTube

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FIVE NATURAL DISASTERS THAT STRUCK AMERICA (1811-1937)

masc graveyard smallerBalladeer’s Blog takes a look at some devastating natural disasters that hit the United States so long ago that some of them have been nearly forgotten. 

HIGH MAGNITUDE EARTHQUAKES IN THE MIDDLE UNITED STATES

Dates: December 16th, 1811 … January 23rd, 1812 and February 7th, 1812

Location: Sparsely inhabited sections of Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio

The Events: In New Madrid, MO, residents were literally shaken from their beds by the earthquake at roughly 2:00AM on December 16th. Virtually none of them had ever experienced an earthquake before, but had heard Shawnee legends about one of their gods “stamping their feet hard enough to rend the ground asunder.”

A million-square mile area shook intensely on that day as well as January 23rd and February 7th, 1812. Cincinnati, OH, Louisville, KY and Saint Louis, MO reported falling chimneys and shattered windows. Across multiple states the ground rose and fell, with sinks and ridges forming and trees ripped in two. Continue reading

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